Lowe's swing front door wide open to Porch
It may be easy enough, even mildly entertaining, to pick just the right cobalt tile to edge that brand-new floor in the master bathroom, but how many of us know how or even want to install it?
For those who don't, home remodeling giant Lowe's is offering to help find just the right person to perform the task, but it's not someone from Lowe's. Call it the anti-DIY ... online.
"For us, it's a great tool for our associates to have in the store," said Jay Rebello, Lowe's vice president of new business development. "People have an idea that they want to fix their house up, do something nice, and it requires not just products but products and expertise, and the know-how to get the project done."
So Lowe's is partnering with Porch.com, a website launched late last year that connects homeowners with home improvement professionals in their neighborhoods who may even have worked on their neighbors' houses. One feature on Porch allows you to look inside some of your neighbors' renovations.
"Porch is about creating that trusted home improvement network," said Matt Ehrlichman, CEO of Seattle-based Porch. "When you have the actual data, you know this particular professional has worked on this home next door, and your neighbor has hired them multiple times. Or we know this professional has worked on 50 homes in your area. That creates a huge amount of trust for the homeowner."
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Lowe's is test-driving the partnership in 140 stores throughout North and South Carolina and the Seattle area. If all goes well, the aim is to expand it nationwide.
While Lowe's already provides some basic installation services for its products, the company sees this as a way to expand its customer services and to attract more professionals into its stores. Home improvement pros currently account for 25 percent to 30 percent of its revenue.
The partnership does, however, raise the question of liability for Lowe's. What happens, for example if a customer accesses Porch through a Lowe's store, finds and hires a contractor, and then said contractor burns down the house?
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"Lowe's and its associates will not be recommending specific service providers to consumers," said Rebello. "Ultimately, the homeowner will look at each professional's profile and select a service provider based on their licenses, past projects, endorsements, etc."
Porch does not recommend one professional over another, although pros can buy a subscription package where they can create additional exposure. Porch will not, however, move them to the top of the search results based on those subscriptions.
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Ehrlichman said Porch data are validated through homeowner testimonials, good and bad, as well as permit records and other public information. As the company ages, it will cull more data, which it eventually plans to sell.
The partnership is an additional service for Lowe's but could be a real game-changer for Porch and its 34-year-old CEO. He said his intention, after going through a rather painful home construction project, is to "disrupt" the home improvement industry.